Mumbai: Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) wants the domain names .indians, .reliance and .ril; Tata Sons Ltd, .tata; and Bharti Airtel Ltd, .bharti and .airtel.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann)—an international not-for-profit body that oversees the structure of the Internet—in a release on Wednesday said it received a total of 1,930 proposals for 1,410 different Internet suffixes by a 30 May deadline.
The US- and UK-based companies and organizations accounted for more than 80% of all applications for the new Internet address endings. While the US accounted for 935 applications, Europe filed 675, Asia-Pacific 303, and Africa 17.
The .com domain name has for long been the most-coveted generic top-level domain name (gTLD) in cyberspace, but Icann, in mid-2008, had given the go-ahead for total freedom of domain names, but stopped receiving applications only on 30 May.
Other Indian companies that want their own domain names include State Bank of India that has filed for .sbi; Tata Motors Ltd that wants .tatamotors; Dabur India Ltd (.dabur); Infosys Ltd (.infosys and .infy); Housing Development Finance Corp. Ltd (.hdfc); and HDFC Bank Ltd (.hdfcbank).
The list of applicants has been uploaded on Icann’s website.
Microsoft Inc. and Google Inc., too, have applied for gTLDs such as .bing and .azure, and .goog and .google, respectively.
Given the volume of requests, Icann plans to divide and evaluate the applications in batches of about 500. The first names are expected to go live some time during April-June 2013.
A domain name allows users to access a company’s or individual’s website on the Internet by typing an address—typically a name (that, in reality, masks an Internet Protocol, or IP number).
The first-level set of domain names are the top-level domains (TLDs) including gTLDs (22 of which have been issued to date) such as .com, .net and .org, and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) such as .in (for India).
Globally, .com accounts for 45-50% of all gTLDs.
The new top-level domain names, however, come at a price—$185,000 for the application alone and $25,000 as annual maintenance charges. Overall, a company or individual will have to shell out around Rs 1.5 crore for the exercise—most of it as a one-time cost.
There are benefits, too, say industry experts.
“There are an estimated 450,000 active websites in India, but the number is increasing rapidly. India has a very low penetration of domain names as compared with Internet users. Icann’s move will help brands be categorized as large international companies. It will increase their brand value and snob value, while setting them apart from their peers. Companies that have applied for the new gTLDs are those that have huge advertising budgets, too. They have existing domain names such as .com and .in, and may now redirect all their users to their new identity,” explained Jasjit Sawhney, founder chairman and managing director of Net4India Ltd, a network and application services provider.
Sandeep Ramchandani, director (strategic partnerships) at the Directi Group, a domain name registrar, said the move would result in a big expansion of domain names. “It’s a historic moment for the Internet,” he said.
Ramchandani added that “financial institutions such as banks could be the first movers since it gives them an opportunity to secure their networks against fake websites and phishing (hackers misleading users to websites where they can steal personal and financial information)”.
The move, though, has also received opposition from certain quarters. According to a 10 November release, 87 leading national and international business associations and companies had joined forces with ANA (Association of National Advertisers) to form the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight (Crido) to oppose the roll-out of Icann’s top-level domain expansion programme. The number has since increased to 181, according to the Crido website.
Icann had, in August 2011, countered Crido’s allegations, stating that it had adopted the programme only after consulting stakeholders and receiving feedback. But the protests continue.